Chatham-Kent, Ontario; covering a large geographical area with an abundance of amenities
Providing everything a resident could ask for, Chatham-Ken is a great place to call home
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Chatham-Kent for our focus on economic growth and development in North America
Across Canada, communities, both large and small have proven to be a good place to call home. For the residents fortunate enough to live in Ontario’s municipality of Chatham-Kent, ‘home’ can easily be described as being ‘as good as it gets’.
Chatham-Kent has experienced much success in 2022, with growing commercial and industrial offerings, a plethora of new housing developments, and a growing population. This has all happened with intention and careful planning, as the Southwestern Ontario municipality strives to showcase themselves as a great place to live, work and invest.
“Chatham-Kent has a lot of natural positives, given our location,” says Mayor Darrin Canniff.
“We have 60 kilometers of the 401 running through Chatham-Kent. Our location gives us excellent access to land borders with the US and the large populations of Windsor, Londan and Toronto; that’s access to a labor force of over 1.2 million within an hour’s drive.”
As Chatham-Kent works to update and add new community facilities such as a state-of-the-art arena, library, and museum, they are also considering updated community facilities and public art, creating a perfect balance of living, work, and play.
Mayor Canniff also states that Chatham-Kent remains extremely affordable. “Our housing is a third of the price compared to the GTA. When somebody from that area is researching where to move, we want Chatham-Kent to be at the top of their list.”
Covering 2,500 square kilometers, the municipality boasts $6 billion in total assets. “We want to create revenue, bring people into our community, and inspire development,” asserts Stuart McFadden,Director of Economic Development.
“We bring in about $165 million a year in taxes from the citizens. So basically, our asset management plan says that we should be spending somewhere in the neighborhood of about $100 million a year just to keep up with this six billion dollar asset.”
As Chatham-Kent continues to work with both the federal and provincial governments to find creative solutions to infrastructure needs, the municipality also utilizes valuable partnerships within other aspects of the community.
“We’ve built a very strong relationship with our colleagues at Invest Ontario and the Ministry of Economic Development,” McFadden says.
He adds that partnerships with the various Chambers of Commerce and BIAs in the municipality are also important, as well as a relationship with the Community Futures Development Corporation, “They provide funding for some of our smaller businesses. We also have the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). So, if we have someone that’s exploring a significant multi-million dollars investment, we have BDC to help move that forward. I believe everything we do is about partnerships and working together to make our community better.”
From an economic development standpoint, Chatham-Kent is seeing continued growth, with 9 of the 10 available lots in the municipally-owned Bloomfield Business Park having been sold in the past year. “We have a requirement with municipal-owned land, construction must start within one year of closing. Given those sales we are anticipating 2023 to be very strong from a development point of view,” says McFadden. “It’s businesses in multiple sectors, which is great because it gives us some sustainability and some flexibility inside of our workforce and inside the municipality.”
Investment in privately owned industrial land has also been significant, which McFadden believes shows the community’s faith in the future of Chatham-Kent. One example is the former Navistar truck manufacturing facility, a lot spanning 86 acres. “That building was taken down and a private, local ownership has acquired that property,” says McFadden. “They’re remediating the property, and we have seen significant interest in that just because of the robustness of the infrastructure available on the site. We’ve hosted companies from around the world in Chatham-Kent over the past few months to look at this site and we are confident that it will be a good fit for one of them.”
With a residential vacancy rate of less than 2%, the municipality developed a Community Improvement Plan to tackle the challenge of housing and inspire development in the community. McFadden explains, “We identified various developers and asked them to look at Chatham-Kent as an opportunity to construct lucrative multi-residential apartments. We’ve been extremely successful on that. Right now, we have about 10 multi-residential developments happening.”
To entice developers, the municipality offered a tax rebate for a period of 10 years. They also capped building permit fees and water and wastewater development fees. “We’ve worked hard to inspire the development and it turned out well. Now these apartments are being built, and we’re creating some capacity inside of the marketplace, which is hopefully going to create a little bit of downward pressure on pricing. When you have no inventory, you can ask whatever you want. We needed to get ahead of that.” Along with these multi-family developments, Chatham-Kent also has approximately 23 subdivision plans approved and ready to go, bringing more housing options throughout the municipality.
In terms of tourism, Chatham-Kent has the largest freshwater fishing port in the world and is known for its duck hunting resorts, which are some of the most exclusive in North America. With many beautiful beaches, people from across Ontario flock to the area in the summer months.
“Given the temperatures we have, our summers are longer, spring comes sooner, and fall comes later. We have an expanded season down here,” maintains Mayor Canniff. Along with the city of Chatham, there are nine other downtowns in the municipality that offer a wide range of unique shopping experiences. “We have a lot of day trips, and weekend trips coming down here to visit our downtowns and all the unique shopping they offer,” says the mayor.
As a stop on the Underground Railroad, Chatham-Kent is a key destination for those interested in that part of Canada’s history. Chatham-Kent is home to the Josiah Henson Museum of African-Canadian History, formerly known as Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Chatham is also home to Retro Suites, one of the top boutique hotels in North America according to TripAdvisor. “It is a very unique hotel,” Canniff describes, “Each and every room is different, and you have to see it to appreciate it. The owner also owns RM Restoration and RM Sotheby’s Auction House, the world’s largest auction house for classic cars. This, and the many classic car festivals we host, has led to Chatham-Kent being labeled the Classic Car Capital of Canada.
Environmental sustainability is a priority in Chatham Kent. They have enlisted the services of a company that will look at ways to reduce the environmental impact of the municipality. “ This is important to the Council and it’s important to everybody, for us to be good stewards of the land, and to do what we can,” McFadden acknowledges. EV charging stations have also been installed through Chatham-Kent as another green initiative.”
Having many wind turbines throughout the municipality,Canniff conveys, “We are probably one of the greenest municipalities in Canada, given that the electrical output from those wind turbines far exceeds our consumption.We’re net creators of energy on that front. We push very hard collectively as a municipality to be as green as we can on the macro level, as well as everyday projects that we look at.”
As for what the future holds for Chatham-Kent, McFadden offers, “The reality is, we need to continue to grow our community to help us be sustainable long term. The more people we bring to our community, the more tax dollars we collect, the more people we have to support our local businesses, using our arenas, our libraries and so forth. My vision for the future is to continue to support and embrace growth, promote investment and support the developers and people that are interested in doing business here and make sure that they’re successful.”
Looking ahead, Mayor Canniff suggests that the municipality will continue to prioritize making housing more attainable, while also focusing on the new sports complex,museum, and public art – things that have a tangible effect on making Chatham-Kent a better place. We’re always focused on attracting people and industry to the community, on making others see the many benefits there are to living, working and investing here.
“We want more people, and more companies to discover how amazing it is here in Chatham-Kent,” he concludes.
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AT A GLANCE
What: A growing municipality spanning 2,500 square kilometers
Where: Southwestern Ontario, Canada
Vitesco Technologies Canada, Inc. – www.vitesco-technologies.com/en-us
While the name Vitesco Technologies Canada, Inc. may be new, we have been present in Chatham for 75+ years. Our extensive experience in developing Actuators, Pumps and Valves fuels the development of new applications supporting our transformation to e-mobility.
St. Claire College – www.stclaircollege.ca
St. Clair College’s Chatham Campus has approximately 1,200 students specializing in health sciences, community studies, business, and technology programs and is the home of the National Powerline Training Centre. The campus hosts townhouse-style residences. The community HealthPlex features a double gym, a full fitness centre, and an elevated walking track.